Medical Malpractice

Every year, thousands of people are injured as a result of medical malpractice. The Harvard Medical Practice Study estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die each year because of medical mistakes. The nonprofit organization Public Citizen estimates that, each year, 1.3 million injuries are caused by negligence, and that more than two-thirds of these are preventable.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or health care provider does not treat a medical condition properly and, as a result, causes a new or aggravated injury to the patient.

What types of medical malpractice are there?

Medical malpractice happens in a variety of situations, including but not limited to:
--- Birth injury caused by failure to deliver a baby in a timely manner
--- Delay or failure in diagnosing a disease or condition
--- Surgical- or anesthesia-related mishap during an operation
--- Failure to gain the "informed consent" of the patient for an operation or surgical  procedure, i.e., failing to disclose to the patient the risks associated with the procedure
--- Failure to properly treat the disease process after making a correct diagnosis
--- Misuse of prescription drugs or a medical device or implant

What is "informed consent?"

Physicians are required to inform their patients of the projected effectiveness of any proposed treatment, and the possibility of negative side effects or other adverse outcomes. Thus, before a doctor can perform a procedure, prescribe a drug, or take any significant action, he must get the "informed consent" of the patient.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice claim?

To determine if there is a "medical malpractice," it is necessary that a medical expert be retained to consult with the injured party's attorney. This expert should be well qualified to give a medical opinion, and is therefore frequently board certified in the relevant field of medicine. If, after a thorough review of the pertinent medical records, the medical expert concludes "with reasonable medical certainty that the action or inaction of the defendant physician was the cause of damage to the plaintiff," it may then be appropriate to file suit against the health care provider.

Is it true that medical malpractice claims are very expensive?

Most medical malpractice attorneys take their cases on a "contingency" basis. This means that the attorney fee is a percentage of the amount recovered from the defendant(s) through judgment or settlement (usually 33.33% to 40% of the judgment, after costs and fees are deducted). In other words, the client does not pay any attorney fees unless there is a recovery in the case.

Largely due to the cost of hiring medical experts, medical malpractice cases are extremely expensive cases to bring to court. By the time a case reaches trial, costs alone frequently exceed $100,000. Therefore, sometimes, even when there is a clear case of medical negligence, a suit may not be appropriate because the cost of litigation will likely exceed the amount of any damages award.

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